Friday, 27 October 2006

ITIL and the new qualification scheme

As regulars amongst you will know, I have some concerns regarding the future of the ITIL qualification scheme under APMG. The OGC have published a statement outlining the operation and ITSM portal have translated this into a diagram for easy comprehension. I'm still not sure what this means for itSMF, ISEB, or EXIN - but apparently patience is a virtue ;)

Monday, 23 October 2006

Unresolved Help Desk Calls + Motivation = Change? (part 4)

This is the final part (for now) in my mini-series on motivating a team to resolve help desk calls when they have lots of other (to them more interesting) work to be doing as well.

After the meeting back in the office, I set the jars up and got back to work. In the background I heard a lot of people on the telephone, and wait, someone taking a sweet already AND putting it in the Eat Me jar for everyone? Curious, I had a chat with my colleague and it turns out that they are concerned about their teeth. Yet, the scheme still works for them because as more sweets arrive in the Eat Me jar; it's a visible representation of how many calls they are resolving. An unexpected benefit because I was convinced that everyone would be selfish and eat their sweets unless there wasn't one they liked left in the jar!

Turning my attention to another colleague who had missed the meeting, I quickly explained that when they resolve a call they can take a sweet and eat it or put it in the jar. Their response: "I don't do gimmicks." I said that was fair enough. Later on they raised the point that if they didn't join in the numbers would be wrong; so I explained the sweetie stock take on Friday's in my own time after work which may or may not have had an effect. I figured it would take about a week for them to come around. I was wrong. After lunch, they got up and headed to the jars... there had been so much banter in the office about the sweets and who has done what and which sweet was taken, I think perhaps they didn't want to feel left out. I love it when a plan comes together!

A week on...the overall backlog has decreased by 40 calls (of course there are other factors that contribute to this such as less staff on holiday, less calls being logged during the week etc.)

Two weeks on...the overall backlog has increased again due in part to an unusually high number of calls being logged, staff out on training courses, and others on holiday.

Staff are using the jars, albeit in different ways. Some continue to use them as intended; others prefer to keep a note of how many calls they are resolving throughout the working day and take their sweets out of the jars at the end of the day. The key thing that this scheme has achieved is an interest in HOW we are performing which was previously low to lacking.

The next stage to enhance this will be some 'no cost to the council' way of rewarding staff for calls resolved within time on a monthly basis.

Friday, 13 October 2006

Unresolved Help Desk Calls + Motivation = Change? (part 3)

I agreed with the team leaders to present the idea at a team briefing. With the date set, the night before I ran the help desk report to show the number of outstanding calls on each work queue and spent part of my evening counting out and dividing hundreds of sweets into the various jars (each representing one work queue).

As I was doing this, I realised that although the jars are needed for operational purposes, it did detract somewhat from the shock factor of a huge pile of sweets. I've learned from Spendaholics (TV show) and John Kotter's 'The Heart of Change' that the tangible shock factor is all important to evoke the feeling which would hopefully lead to the change (I know he was talking about large organisational change, but I figure it could work for us too on a small scale).

So, I delved into the sweetie stockpile and started out counting sweets again equal to the number of outstanding calls. These I divided into plastic bags.

The next morning arrived, and I went in early to prepare the room. Jars laid out on a table and covered out of sight, the sweetie pile bags also hidden away, last months calls resolved within time stats and this month to date written on a white board, and another white board with numbers from 100-500 on it.

Once everyone had arrived I outlined the current situation regarding the increasing backlog with help desk calls and the people resources available. Next I turned to the whiteboard with the numbers 100-500 on it and asked everyone for their guess as to the number of outstanding calls. This led to a nice bit of banter whilst everyone submitted their thoughts which ranged from just over 300 to over 700! A nice indication that no one really knew. I circled those that came closest to the actual number and wrote it on the board for all to see (slight pause for it to sink in).

Next I said that at the end of the day it's just a number, and it's hard to grasp what that really means. At which point I delved into my shopping bag and pulled out first one plastic bag and handed it to a colleague to tip out into the middle of the table (I should say that we were all sat around a circular table which left a perfect circle in the middle for this exercise). The grins started to appear, and one person leaped ahead and said, "Oh, I bet we get a sweet for each call we close!" I grinned and handed out another bag. "I bet there's a hundred in each bag..." they said. Smiling, I handed out more bags to different people so about half of the team were hands-on.

When all the sweets were on the table, I stated the outstanding call number again and that each sweet didn't represent a call, but it represented someone waiting on us to complete their call (a slight mental shift as I was trying to encourage the customer-focused way of thinking).

As hands began to rummage through the sweets to see what was there I talked a bit about the process, then revealed the jars and went through each one showing the number of calls outstanding for that queue. This seemed to further reinforce the shock factor as in one case multiple people didn't realise there were any calls on one queue at all!

I fielded a number of questions, one of which was, "Is the council paying for this?" The answer was "No." In discussion with the team leaders we had agreed to split the initial and ongoing sweet cost 3 ways (I'm happy to pay for the jars as it was my idea, and if it fails then I get something out of it anyway). There was a split-second of silence as people took this in, then a number said "Thank you for doing this." I'm hoping that because we are willing to invest personal money and time, everyone will be that much more inclined to make the idea work.

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised that everyone present was smiling and up for the idea. I'd been prepared for the cynics. However, the real test would be when we were back in the office. Find out what happens in part 4 next Tuesday as that will mark 1 week of the new initiative.

Tuesday, 10 October 2006

Unresolved Help Desk Calls + Motivation = Change? (part 2)

Following on from yesterday and my revelation...

My colleagues needed to SEE the backlog. A long list or number on a report just doesn't cut it. I needed something tangible; something to shock; something that could inspire change... and ooh, something that might be motivating in and of itself.

Enter: sweets. Hundreds of them!

The 3-step process I came up with works like this:
1. Allocate a sweetie jar for each work queue with each sweet in the jar representing someone who is waiting on us to complete their incident/service request.
2. When someone resolves a call, they get to take a sweet from the correct queue jar and either eat it, or put it into the shared 'Eat Me! (available sweets) jar.
3. After work each Friday I take on the role of 'sweetie monitor' and top up each jar with the new calls for the week and check the count of each jar to ensure people are taking their sweets/not taking too many!

The following day I sounded out the IT team leaders and was pleasantly surprised to find that neither of them laughed at me. They actually leaned back and said, "That could work..." So, with the authorisation to go ahead I went shopping!

I made sure that I purchased a wide range of sweets with wrappers so they could withstand the rummaging, as well as checking best before dates because some of our calls have been outstanding for a rather long time.

Finding the right style of sweetie jar took a little effort but I found some and had to wait for a week whilst they ordered more to make up the numbers I needed.

With the jars and sweetie stock at the ready, I had to figure out how to present the idea to the team in such a way that they'd support it instead of dismissing it as 'one of her crazy schemes'. I'll save this part for Friday's entry. See you then.

Unresolved Help Desk Calls + Motivation = Change? (part 1)

No, I've not gone mad (always been that way)... Today I wanted to write about an idea I had that has today moved from theory into practice.

A little background. We don't have enough staff working in the IT department at my council. We're constantly wrestling with trying to balance project work, helpdesk calls, systems maintenance, and other corporate administrative duties that we may have. Since Gershon's Efficiency Review people (i.e. senior management) have looked to save money from all areas INCLUDING IT, instead of recognising that IT requires investment to help alleviate issues in other areas; but now I am digressing... back to prioritisation. It's tough. When the balance is tipped and you get to a stage where most of the help desk calls have breached the internally accepted SLA priority and the backlog is increasing instead of decreasing, it inevitably leads to a pretty demotivated team.

So... the big question that needed to be answered - what could I do in my non-management capacity to improve things for users, my colleagues, and myself? I should add a small proviso: 'given the restricted resources available'.

I don't know if any of you have seen Spendaholics or Supernanny on TV recently - but I watch them both with interest as I find them excellent lessons in the people side of change management (something I'm keen to develop). (Unlike, I might add, 'How Clean is your House' which I watch to reassure myself that I do some housework ;) ) One night, whilst drifting off to sleep, the solution hit me... slap bang in the forehead.

To find out what hit me in the forehead, see me tomorrow!

Friday, 6 October 2006

ITIL Refresh v3 - Update

Very quickly for those of you who may not have seen it yet, the OGC have published another statement about the Commercial Activities Recompetition (CAR) project, this time focusing on the potential impact on examinations which I've certainly expressed concerns about in a previous entry.

This new statement isn't particularly reassuring to me given that my employer is looking to implement ITIL in the new year (funding permitting). In which case, is it appropriate to go ahead and send people on training courses which will be accredited by a board who may be redundant by July 2007 (unless ISEB and EXIN become Examination Institutes (EIs) licenced by APMG)? Not to mention the refresh itself which I'm sure would mean an opportunity for training providers to run update courses to increase their income. Not good for our small government training budgets.

There's some interesting points raised by the editor over at ITSM Portal.

I do wonder whether APMG will bring ITIL examinations (and consequently those with the qualifications) more credibility or whether it will stifle the community that helps it grow. Only time will tell...